According to most camping guides, you don’t want to take an axe into the forest because it is dangerous. I once saw a group of kids chopping wood in bare feet – YIKES. We also had a family member cut the tip of her finger off with a hatchet, luckily, they were only one portage away from a hospital.
What you do need is a saw. The best camping purchase we ever made was our trusty red saw. It’s official name is “Filzer Buckster Bow Saw“, which is why we call it the “Red Saw”.
This saw packs up small into a tube and hangs on the outside of a pack, it’s very light and sturdy, assembles quickly and it is safe and efficient. We heard that the company went out of business, but recently the saws are back on the market with another company. The new version of this saw has padding for your hand, which I love, but my husband doesn’t.
With the saw, you can have enough campfire wood for an evening in 10 or 15 minutes.
An axe is good for cutting large trees, but you do not need to cut large trees for a campfire. In fact, large pieces of wood are not ideal at all. If you don’t have a saw, and you feel strongly about it, take a well protected hatchet. We bought a hatchet for our new “stick stove” this year so we will keep you posted.
We have camped near people with a chainsaw, on Clear Lake in Massasauga Provincial Park. I don’t actually think chainsaws are legal in Provincial Parks but it happens. You really don’t need a chainsaw!
You can have a good campfire by collecting sticks you can break with your hands, but really, a saw is ideal.
It is best to have a way to cook your meals without being dependent on a campfire. You will need a lot of wood if you cook on the fire and you will end up spending your entire trip collecting sticks, not to mention the challenges on a rainy trip. Some people suggest it isn’t actually an environmentally friendly choice because you use so much wood.
We usually plan one meal on the campfire, usually a pizza, but we are always prepared to switch it with another meal if the weather isn’t great. We rarely plan a campfire meal on a ‘move day’. If you arrive to a site with no wood, or you arrive late, or just tired and hungry, cooking on the fire is not a pleasant experience. If we are able to cook on the fire the first night we pick plank salmon – but that doesn’t happen often.
We find that it is easier to use the saw if you can find a rock or even the grill to help you brace the branch. Some people in our group wear a work glove when they are sawing. It saves the hands and reduces the risk.